The Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 goals, including 169 targets, embraced by world leaders in September 2015. The SDGs define a vision, a purpose, a target, and a standard for nations concerning sustainable development and a sustainable tomorrow.

The delivery of public infrastructure and services is paramount for India to fulfil its SDGs. With similar global trends, India endures the private sector with demanded infrastructure and services. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have become a prevalent prototype in this domain.

The last 20 years have seen the increase in capacity of PPPs as a method of crowding in investment and expertise from the private sector to provide public works and services. Considerably employed because of their purported benefits in off-budget funding, PPPs are a means contemporary governments regularly engage to accomplish their public infrastructure and services commitments. This tendency is likely to persist in the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic, seeking the needed strategies to fulfil the increasing needs for investment in public sector expansion.

Infrastructure is vital for attaining India's sustainable pursuits. This is well reflected, explicitly, and implicitly within the sustainable development goals. Sustainable infrastructure development within the country applies the following principles:

  • Infrastructure plans should be inclusive of assuring no one is left behind – improving access, among others, to energy, water and sanitation, transportation, and ICT, including in secluded places and for underprivileged communities.
  • Infrastructure projects ought to be climate-friendly – greenhouse gas emissions can be only reduced if India moves down from energy and pollution-intensive infrastructure solutions.
  • Infrastructure must be resilient as India has multiple significant disaster-prone regions encyclopaedically, and infrastructure through its design and construction should be resilient to the predictable influences of climate change.
  • Infrastructure should facilitate seamless connectivity to foster better promising and social integration – key to optimal resource allocation and providing the much-needed momentum to investment and trade flows.

Attaining sustainable development demands attracting private finances to expand infrastructure and better access to infrastructure services that put people and the planet first. Thus, the private sector role should provide financial resources and enhance the quality of infrastructure assets and services.

Group 1: SDGs directly linked to social and economic infrastructure sectors

SDG 3: Good health and well being- A PPP design can address health care and social services requirements, potentially improving quality, scope, and accessibility.

SDG 4: Quality education-  A PPP design may provide education facilities and services and vocational education and training to support lifelong literacy. A PPP project company can also incorporate uninterrupted training and education of the staff concerned in project processes.

SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation- A PPP project can directly concern supplying and managing water and sanitation infrastructure and services.

SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy- A PPP project can concern energy generation, allocation, and transmission or introduce alternative (clean) energy systems. Non-energy PPP projects dealing with other infrastructure and services include renewable energy.

SDG 9: Industry, innovation, and infrastructure- A PPP project can develop infrastructures such as industrial parks, special economic zones and dry ports that influence industrial development. Alike, a PPP project can enable access to information and communication technology. A PPP programme can incorporate institutional support and mechanisms to promote invention more broadly in the infrastructure sector, such as unsolicited proposal (USO) processes where the private sector is invited to initiate and propose project ideas.

SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities- PPP can be a central medium through which most of the infrastructure and services involved in urban development are provided and managed, including specific urban safety, adaptability, and sustainability projects.


Group 2: SDGs indirectly linked to infrastructure projects

SDG 1: No poverty- A PPP project can address poverty relief, for example, by applying the provision of infrastructure or laterally by comprising labour-intensive construction, creating jobs opportunities. In addition, PPP project companies may establish community help enterprises.

SDG 2: Zero hunger- A PPP project may affect food (agricultural) production, supply chains, and even nourishment programmes. PPP projects can also target rural infrastructure involving agricultural productive capacity.

SDG 5: Gender equality- A PPP project can provide infrastructure and services targeting gender-specific necessities. A PPP project company also can assure its management and staffing to improve gender equality. A PPP programme could incorporate provisions for addressing gender equality within institutions established to sustain PPPs. This kind of provision could also be used to appoint advisors and experts. Policies could also guarantee that gender consideration are taken on board in stakeholder consultations.

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth-  A PPP project can address infrastructure voids while creating employment. This should positively influence the area's economic development, which is usually hindered by the lack of roads, power plants and other essential infrastructure. A PPP programme can create jobs for specialised skills and expertise in the public and private sectors. Policies, laws, and contractual clauses can also be developed to promote more participation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in PPP projects, making infrastructure projects more inclusive.

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities- A PPP project can address infrastructure and service providers concentrated on the requirements of lower-income groups while providing employment to these groups and thereby facilitating income equality. PPP project companies can also establish community support initiatives.

SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production- A PPP project can directly concentrate on factors of production and indirectly address consumption and output by applying economic principles.

SDG 13: Climate action- Infrastructure projects can be developed to withstand possible impacts from future climate change-related events. A PPP programme can include policies to foster resilience and deal explicitly with climate risks.

SDG 14: Life below water- PPP projects that interact with ocean, sea, or marine resources can include provisions to improve the sustainable use of these resources.

SDG 15: Life on land- PPP projects can provide infrastructure and services involved in sustainable land use and indirectly include provisions to maximise sustainability in designing and managing projects.

SDG 16: Peace, justice, and strong institutions- PPP projects can directly deliver judicial infrastructure and services. PPP programmes can ensure transparency, openness, and the effective rule of law in transacting, managing, and monitoring projects.

SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals) deals explicitly with alliances among the other goals. A target for SDG 17 is about encouraging and promoting effective PPPs.


Initiatives and Projects in India

Redevelopment of railway stations

  1. NITI Aayog has been working closely with the railways' ministry to fast-track the railway stations' redevelopment programme across the country. A self-sustainable PPP-based model for developing world-class stations has been finalised. Example: Rani Kamalapati railway station (formerly Habibganj railway station) in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh (MP).
  2. Passenger train operation: NITI Aayog and the ministry of railways are spearheading landmark reforms in passenger train operations through the PPP model. Private participation in sourcing and process of modern technology trains for better passenger experience is one such initiative.
  3. Eco-tourism facilities: As a part of NITI Aayog's initiative of holistic development of islands, the bidding process for the expansion of sustainable eco-tourism projects in seven islands of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep has been undertaken. Several other islands have also been identified under the project's second phase.

This has been authored by Bhakti Jain. 

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